If you have given birth before, you have a story to tell. It might be a story that makes you sick to you stomach. Or it may be a story that is all euphoria. For most of us, there is probably a mix of emotions — ranging from relief to grief, helplessness to empowerment, resentment to joy, regret to gratitude, plus awe and everything in between.
Whatever the emotions associated with your birth, I think it is important to tell the story. So often, I hear no details about a someone’s birth. It is, of course, only your story to tell, when and as you feel comfortable doing so. However, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the birth stories I tend to hear, reduced to such statements as “it was a conventional, standard birth.”
Have you considered how extraordinary birth is? Your baby was only born once; he or she will never be born into this world again! No matter how it compares to what you think other women’s birth experiences are, it is still a phenomenal, un-replicable event resulting from a unique mother and unique new person emerging. It’s quite crazy, I think.
Maybe some people don’t want to hear about it. I suppose that being a birth worker, I may just have more enthusiasm than others for the story of your child’s debut to Earth. Regardless, the world needs to know your story.
I can hear hesitations, and it may be comforting to know that I myself have hesitated in the past to share the stories of my own children’s births.
Partly, I hesitated to tell their stories because I could sense some people would unfortunately not care, and others would have opinions about how one should birth that would clash with the decisions I made for my own children’s births. Parenting in itself — especially in the postpartum weeks — makes one vulnerable enough to have no need for debates on what may, in the grand scheme of life, be considered trivial matters.
However, a conversation filled with the telling of our birth stories would potentially yield a greater understanding and compassion towards others. How can we sympathize with others without even knowing exactly when they have been through? We may never know how our stories will impact others, but I do, at a minimum, have faith that these testimonies we share can help serve as guidance to future parents-to-be.
Perhaps this is only because I work as a birth professional, but I also have hesitated to share my birth stories because I feared that sharing my story would have negative repercussions on some of the other women who heard it. Would my birth story set up expectations for a pregnant mom that might potentially make her disappointed in her own birth? The last thing I wanted was to be the source for a woman feeling isolated and invalidated because of how drastically different my own positive experiences were compared to their sometimes traumatic ones.
At the end of the day, we are mothers, and each of us are giving all our love to our children. Birth is just one little day in the whole story of each child. It seemed like it didn’t really matter all that much.
Or did it?
When evaluating my experience as a mother, friend to mothers, person who has been birthed into this world myself, and now doula, I realize that I do not do justice to the magnificence of birth by trying to paint our stories as plainly as I have so far. We, collectively, are really not doing justice to birth — and especially to the author of birth and life itself — when we brush our stories under the rug.
The truth is, our stories are complicated. They are defined not only by what plainly happened, but also by the layers of our expectations, our culture, our deepest desires, our sexual history, and our feelings of support and faith or lack thereof from each person who was along for the journey during conception, pregnancy, and labor.
I’ve birthed three times, and while I make a blanket statement about each one of them being wonderful and empowering, none were perfect. I have confusion and wonderings about all 3 births, and embarrassments about the last one, even though it was the most blissful and enlightening of all three. So, knowing that there is nuance to make each birth story interesting, I feel it is worth our time to hear each others’ stories.
More importantly, though, I’m coming to believe that birth deeply matters. Evidence reveals that birth matters from a scientific perspective, if we care to optimize the next generation’s chance to live healthfully. On mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, birth is equally if not more important. Birth separates a child and mother physically, and yet bonds them forever. Birth also bonds us to every other woman who has become a mother. Birth transforms us from the inside out.
Powerfully, birth is also capable of healing us. In fact, just the telling of your birth story can be a healing act in and of itself. If you feel unsafe tellng your birth story publicly, or even with close friends and family, I highly recommend finding a counselor or therapist who can listen to your story from a neutral point of view. It has been my experience that birth not only delivers a baby to my arms, but delivers spiritual wisdom as well. If you feel deprived of a certain joy you expected from birth, or have invasive, recurring, negative thoughts about your birth, then an honest investigation of your birth experience, along with how you will respond to the experience, seems only fair for you to gain closure and peace.
For the love of humanity, we should share our birth stories! Positive or negative or a muddy-middle-gray experience, we ought to inform expecting parents of the possibilities in birth. What happened in my births is possible, but it is also important for them to know what happened in your births. Knowledge is power. A woman will borrow from the wisdom of our collective birth stories as she finds her own way through birth.
I’ve made a decision to no longer be timid about sharing my birth stories. Of course, I will always add the caveat that I have birthed only 3 of the world’s billions of people, and that additional women’s stories are imperative to learn from, too.
My own birth stories will start appearing on this blog in the coming posts. As I hit publish on this particular blog, I recall this hour 365 days ago, when I was laboring with my youngest child. His birth story is funny, surprising, and sweet. I hope you will read it, and share it as well. And more importantly, I hope you will share your own birth story too.